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City woman’s research work featured in Nature

M. Dinesh Varma
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Her ideas could contribute to prostrate cancer treatment in future

Preethi Ravindranathan
Preethi Ravindranathan

Chennai researcher Preethi Ravindranathan’s work on a tiny molecule that could result in a better remedy for prostate cancer has been featured in the latest issue of Nature Communications.

The 27-year-old researcher was the youngest in the research group at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where she enrolled in 2009.

The collaborative effort, led by Dr. Ganesh V. Raj, involved researchers Tae-Kyung Lee, Lin Yang, Margaret M. Centenera, Lisa Butler, Wayne D. Tilley, Jer-Tsong Hsieh and Jung-Mo Ahn.

Preethi’s contribution to the project involves conducting molecular biology and biochemical experiments, data analyses and in manuscript writing.

Expressing delight over the outcome of her work, Ms. Preethi told The Hindu in an e-mail response that she had always had a fascination for fighting prostate cancer through research.

“Designing small molecules to disrupt essential protein interactions in prostate cancer has always appealed to the engineer in me,” she said. 

The paper that was published in Nature Communications, a weekly peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Nature Publishing Group, involved a small molecule, called D2, which was designed by the group to mimic the interaction surface between androgen receptor (AR), a key player in prostate cancer, and a few select proteins that participate in prostate cancer signalling.

“The principal advantages of using such small molecules is that while they can be made to target specific protein interactions, and hence minimise non-target effects by not affecting other protein interactions, which may be essential for the normal functioning of cells, they can be easily taken up by cells owing to their small size,” Ms. Preethi said. 

Though the new molecule (drug) was non-toxic in mouse and human tissue models, further tests were required before such targeting of prostate cancer could move on to Phase 1 clinical trials involving human participants.

Worldwide, prostate cancer is considered to be the second most frequently diagnosed cancer of men and the fifth most common cancer overall. In India, though prostate cancer prevalence is lower compared to the West the concerns here are more over recent upward trending of the disease and poorer survival rates.

Ms. Preethi is an alumnus of the Rajalakshmi Engineering College where she completed her Engineering (B.Tech) degree in Biotechnology with a gold medal.

She then completed a Master’s in biotechnology from the University of Texas Health Science Centre, Tyler in the US.

Her parents, Ravidranathan and Vasanta, too were motivating and supportive. “They inculcated in me a deep sense of enjoyment in learning and experimenting at an early age and made my science and math textbooks come alive,” Ms. Preethi said.

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